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MARC CHASE: Youth cancer battle, motorcycle fatality touch readers in profound ways
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MARC CHASE: Youth cancer battle, motorcycle fatality touch readers in profound ways

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Never underestimate the ability of the youth among us to impact society and stir our emotions for good.

This era seems hard-pressed sometimes to reveal adult leaders who inspire us to do better things or be better people.

In the news industry, we hear a smattering of complaints when ink and social media shares are provided to political venom or human tragedy, news value or relevance notwithstanding.

It often takes children to be our champions, and they're doing so in spades in Northwest Indiana.

Various editions of The Times last week were testament to several incredible youth, whose stories inspire many of us to greatness and tears. Today's column looks back at two of their stories — one a Hammond teen's victory against a treacherous illness and the other a Crown Point teen who continues to impact the Region following his tragic death.

Hurdling cancer

Hammond High School sophomore Kristrin Alexander's fight with cancer is one of the narratives that stirred our readers, both online and in print.

His first battle with this scourge of a disease began in 2015 when Kristrin's leg began to throb while laying in bed.

In short order, he learned he had bone cancer — chilling news for any human, much less a young boy with athletic aspirations.

Rigorous treatment ensued, and the cancer seemed to go away.

But it came back again last spring, sidelining the three-sport high school athlete again.

After another round of treatment, he was told his leg bones might be too brittle for sport.

Kristrin stayed focus in spite of the devastating news.

After missing his freshman year for treatment and recovery, and never complaining about the adversity, Kristrin is back running hurdles for the track team.

He plays basketball and football as well, and rejoined his teammates on the gridiron after getting a medical green light from doctors in the fall.

"I was pretty excited," Kristrin told Times correspondent David Funk last week. "It felt good to play with my teammates, even though I couldn't play with them last season."

His leadership, in competition and in life, landed Kristrin a captain designation — by the vote of his track teammates.

He should get all of our votes for showing leadership, poise, positivity and determination in some of the most trying circumstances imaginable. 

And if The Times online readership numbers are any indication, the Region is voting for Kristrin in a landslide.

Thousands of readers clicked on, read and/or shared Kristrin's story that appeared on nwi.com and in The Times Friday sports section.

More than 300 people had shared the article off my Facebook feed alone, and another 100 had shared it off The Times feed as of Friday afternoon.

Youth gone too soon

Further south in Lake County, the life of another youth, this time 17-year-old Clayton Gaudry, touched us for a different reason.

It's unfortunately not a story of survival.

Clayton died earlier this month, four days after a truck rear-ended his motorcycle on U.S. 231. His visitation and funeral late last week attracted scores of people, whose lives he impacted in both life and death.

Articles related to the popular Crown Point High School junior's tragedy and remembrance garnered nearly half a million page views on nwi.com this week.

Hundreds of mourners gathered in a candlelight vigil for Clayton on Crown Point's downtown square last week.

Friends, family and concerned residents were moved by the accounts of Clayton as a consummate and understanding friend in an exceptional life cut terribly short.

If you haven't taken time to read about Clayton this week, links to those stories are attached to this column online.

The "golden boy," as his family described him, is remembered as a promising student with a hard work ethic who always put the feelings of his friends before his own.

The stories of Kristrin, Clayton and so many other extraordinary Region youth clearly appeal to our spirits in profound ways.

They remind us of the precious gifts society has in its children and the ability of young lives to shape and mold our foundation in ways so many adults have forgotten.

Local News Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 933-3327 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.

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